In the Media: 15th February 2015

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

This week it’s been almost impossible to escape Fifty Shades of Grey and the commentary surrounding it. Girl on the Net wrote ‘Is 50 Shades of Grey abuse?‘ on her blog; Leslie Bennets wrote, ‘Sex, Lies and Fifty Shades‘ for EW; Janice Turner wrote ‘At last, a man who knows what women want‘ in The Times, while Eva Wiseman went with ‘Why Fifty Shades finds itself in a world of pain‘ in The Observer.

And the pieces about and around the ‘new’ Harper Lee novel keep coming; The Guardian reported ‘Harper Lee ‘hurt and humiliated’ by Mockingbird sequel controversy‘; Salon reported on ‘Harper Lee and America’s silent abuse epidemic‘; Sadie Stein wrote, ‘Hot Stove‘ in The Paris Review; The New Yorker went with ‘Harper Lee and the Benefit of the Doubt‘; McSweeney’s ran ‘Harper Lee’s Letters to Her Editor After the Publication of To Kill a Mockingbird‘; The Los Angeles Times asked ‘Is Harper Lee’s new book headed for Hollywood?‘; while the Huffington Post asked ‘What Did Atticus Finch Think of the Civil Rights Movement?

There’s also been a focus on women’s deaths with the launch of The Femicide Census. Karen Ingala Smith wrote, ‘Femicide is a leading a cause of premature death for women – why aren’t we doing more?‘ and Sarah Ditum, ‘Why we need a Femicide Census‘ both in the New Statesman, while Parker Marie Malloy wrote ‘Trans Women of Color Deserve to Be Mourned as Much as Leelah Alcorn‘ on Slate.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

The lists:

My favourite pieces this week:

In the Media: 21st December 2014

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

Lots of end of year round-ups this week, as you might expect. Two great things happened on Twitter: on Saturday morning, the @#ReadWomen2014 account became @#Read_Women and will continue. I say reading books by women is for life, not just for 2014 (I might make that the blog’s subtitle). Proustitute is convening a goodreads group for 2015 and Travelling in the Homeland has begun a list of Indian women writers available in English translation to help you continue and broaden your reading of books by female writers. Secondly, in response to a male dominated piece on hits and misses in the year in publishing in The Guardian, Ursula Doyle, Associate Publisher at Virago started #hitsandmisses which women in publishing then used to respond with their own take on the year. It’s well worth a read to pick up any gems you might have overlooked.

Elsewhere, Electric Literature told us Why 2014 Was the Year of The Essay; The Guardian had The Best Thrillers of 2014; Buzzfeed had The 28 Best Books By Women in 2014; Rabble in Canada had The Best Book Reviews of 2014; The Huffington Post had The Highlights: Best of Fiction 2015 and The Ones to Watch: Best Debut Fiction Coming in 2015 both from Hannah Beckerman; Flavorwire had The Best Non-Fiction Books 2014; Longreads had the Best of 2014: Essay Writing, and The Coast had Top 15 Books of 2014. And more mini-round-ups were published on The Millions. Ones by Rachel Fershleiser, Yiyun Li, Rebecca Makkai, Gina Frangello, Michelle Filgate, Emma Straub, Jean Hanff Korelitz and Tess Malone are particularly interesting in terms of female writers.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction or poetry to read:

And the lists:

And because it’s Christmas:

In the Media will be taking a two-week break over Christmas and new year. Thank you to everyone who’s read, shared and commented over the last three months.

In the Media: 5th October 2014

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought-provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

Is anyone else aware there’s a film version of Gone Girl out this week? Love it or loathe it, you certainly can’t miss it. Gillian Flynn’s been interviewed by Emma Brockes in The Guardian and told Vulture about 21 Things that Influenced her books. Erin Kelly wrote in the Telegraph about Why we are all in the grip of suburban noir, while Stylist ran some Words of Wisdom from History’s Greatest Female Crime Writers and Vulture ran a list of Seven Books to Scratch Your Gone Girl Itch which are not what you might expect (I’ve reviewed four and have two of the remaining three on my TBR).

Also having a moment is Jane Eyre and her creator Charlotte Brontë partly due to The Secret Life of Books episode dedicated to the book last week. Presenter of that episode, Bidisha, wrote a piece telling us Beware Your Classic Heroines as they might not be all you thought they were. Pam McIlroy wrote Is Jane Eyre passive or strong? in reaction to the programme. While Claire Hayes wrote about rereading and rethinking Jane Eyre as part of the Massive Open Online Course she’s taking. And if you can’t stand Jane Eyre (just me?), here’s Lucy Hughes-Hallet’s piece from earlier in the year about Why Villette is better.

Lots this week about gender parity or, more specifically, the lack of it. Anne Boyd Rioux wrote on her blog about the Challenge to a (Woman) Writer’s Credibility following the Washington Post’s review of Karen Abbott’s Liar Temptress Soldier Spy and on The Millions asked Is There No Gender Equity in Nonfiction? (I don’t need to remind you not to read the comments on that one, do I?) Rebecca Winson from For Books’ Sake wrote in the TES about their Balance the Books campaign, to challenge the gender divide on the new UK GCSE specifications. While Elisabeth Donnelly wrote on Flavorwire about the difference between Lena Dunham and Aziz Ansari’s Million Dollar Book Deals.

(Portrait by Jay Grabiec )

Talking of Lena Dunham (and other current high profile feminists), she’s still big news this week following the publication of her book. Roxane Gay interviewed her on Vulture and posted the outtakes. While the New York Times ran a piece on how she was turning her book tour into ‘a Literary Circus’. While the LA Times linked her with Laurie Penny to discuss how they are ‘rewriting womanhood for the 21st Century‘. Standard Issue interviewed Penny while the TLS ran a piece discussing Penny’s book alongside Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism and The Vagenda titled ‘Modern Sexism‘. And as I’ve mentioned Gay, I’m very excited by the news that The Toast have hired her to run their new sister site ‘The Butter’.

In translated literature news, there’s a great portrait of Russian writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya in The New Yorker and a piece on Chinese Women Writers by Chialin Yu on Women Writers, Women’s Books. Still the Elena Ferrante pieces continue: there’s a podcast on The New Yorker about her mysterious power and Kat Stoeffel has a girl-crush on her on The Cut. While there’s an extract of Catherine Bessonart’s forthcoming novel And if, at Notre Dame, by nighttranslated by Louise LaLaurie on French Culture. All the more interesting for having the original text alongside the translation. And finally, Sal Robinson at Melville House commented on the possibility of a Women in Translation prize.

I never mention poetry. It’s not because I don’t enjoy it, more that I don’t feel even vaguely qualified to talk about it. However, I’m changing that as of this week (talking about it, that is). Poet of the moment, Kate Tempest is in The Guardian talking about how rapping changed her life. This fantastic poem, Leak by Lauren Levin in The Brooklyn Rail is well worth a read. While Patience Agbabi performs the Prologue from her reworking of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

If you prefer prose, Lionel Shriver emerged as the winner of the BBC National Short Story Award, you can read ‘Kilifi Creek‘ on The Guardian site; Hilary Mantel’s ‘The Long QT‘ from The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher; the opening of Marilynne Robinson’s new novel ‘Lila’ on the Virago Books, or Bidisha’s new novel-length fiction work Esha Ex on her blog.

The best of the rest articles:

And the interviews:

This week’s lists:

And my favourite pieces this week:

Tampa – Alissa Nutting

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When a book lands on your doormat with that cast of characters listed on the back, you get very excited – at least I did as that list contains some of my favourite characters of all time. Patrick Bateman being my number one. I think Bateman’s hilarious. I’m laughing at him rather than with him. (Judge me as you wish.) However, I’m several steps removed from Mr Bateman being neither male, American or a deluded, yuppie city boy. Celeste Price though is a whole other kettle of fish.

Celeste Price is a school teacher who has deliberately chosen her career so she can fulfill her sexual preference for adolescent boys. At this point, knowing that some of the people who read this blog know what I do for a living, I would like to make it clear that Celeste Price is a fictional character inspired by the Florida teacher Debra LeFave. The character that Nutting has created is a fascinating one but her teaching and behaviour bear little resemblance to teaching and teachers as I recognise them (and myself). Indeed, some of the passages were very difficult to read without feeling physically sick. Something I sure was part of Nutting’s intention.

So, Celeste Price is a highly manipulative woman. She’s married to Ford, a cop.

Like most women who marry for money, my husband is far too old. Being twenty-six myself, it’s true that he and I are close peers. But thirty-one is roughly seventeen years past my window of sexual interest.

Ford’s money does come in useful for one thing though:

Seeing the students’ actualized youth close-up made me double down on my preventative aging spa visits and my purchase of vigilant creams and potions. I cycled through the weeks of the month with oxygenating facials, DNA repair enzyme facials, caviar illuminating facials, precautionary Botox, microdermabrasion, LED light therapy. To unite body and mind for the best results possible, I always tried to envision myself literally getting younger during the treatments: I pictured my fourteen-year-old self standing off in the distance, waiting for me to come repossess her body…

Nutting gives us a reason for Price’s behaviour then but in no way excuses her. The first few chapters of the novel show Price working through her plans – offering to work in a mobile classroom outside of the main school building; befriending Janet Feinlog, a teacher who hates teenagers and seems to have few friends amongst her peers, and grooming one of her students – Jack-Patrick – for illicit liaisons.

The novel’s bound to be controversial – it’s sexually explicit and covers a highly taboo subject. However, it is very well written and – as odd as this might sound – has a cracking plot. It’s interesting to see the obstacles that Nutting puts in her protagonist’s way and the lengths that she will go to in order to continue her pursuit of under-age boys.

 

Thanks to Faber and Faber for the review copy.